The New York Times has gritted its teeth and published a piece of pro-President Bush puffery: Texas Town Forged Bush’s Firm Stand on Immigration By Jim Rutenberg June 24 2007. The thrust of this is that Bush’s fanatical support for an immigration Surge is rooted in a Gone with the Wind type nostalgia for the golden days of 1950s Midland Texas, complete with happy Hispanics all over the cotton fields and a Hattie McDaniel figure as housekeeper and “second mother”.
The reality of course is that Bush probably felt no threat from deferential poor Hispanics, crippled by language deficiencies and living under the shadow of the Eisenhower Operation Wetback policy. What probably did threaten him were undeferential anglophone Texans with their own political traditions and no doubt lack of appropriate respect for transplanted Wall Street New Englanders.
Besides which there was the enticing example of the life style of the Mexican oligarchs with whom his father did business. Could 21st Century American immigration policies be dictated by boyhood ambitions forged back then?
The interesting aspect of the article, however, is that modern Midland does not agree. An old-established restaurant, said to be Bush’s favorite, faced a boycott last year because the owner supported pro-illegal rallies. (Needless to say, this effort was undercut by Bush’s particular cronies.) The local Congressman, a former Bush employee, despite only having a “B” from Americans for Better Immigration, is willing to be candid:
"There’s just a real disconnect between the folks of West Texas and the president right now,” said Mike Conaway, who was the chief financial officer for Mr. Bush’s oil exploration company here in the 1980s and now represents the area as a Republican in Congress...breaking with Mr. Bush on immigration in recent months after having followed his lead with Rolex reliability for most of his term.
The Chairwoman of the Midland Republican party, Sue Brannon, was courageously very outspoken:
Ms. Brannon, the local party chairwoman who has known Mr. Bush for decades, said Mr. Bush did not understand the new realities of illegal immigration. She said the friends he made in the Hispanic community when he lived in Midland were “not here illegally and taking freebies.”
“I love George and Laura dearly, and I respect him,” she said, “but this immigration thing is going to ruin our country.”
In the 1990s, Texans felt as if the immigration problem was relatively under control—an assessment of that time that even Ms. Brannon shared. But now, she said, “there’s just more and more coming in.”
Is the Bush White House in the same galaxy as Midland, Texas?
Applaud Sue Brannon.